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The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 3
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


Behar

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"All was Related at Sinai"

The Torah reading of Behar begins with:[1] "G-d spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai." It then goes on to provide a detailed account of the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year.

Rashi, quoting Toras Kohanim asks:[2] "What has Shemittah to do with Mount Sinai; [were not] all the commandments given on Sinai?" He answers: "Just as the general, specific, and most minutely detailed laws were related at Sinai, so too, all [the mitzvos] were related, generally, specifically and most minutely."

In order for a mitzvah to be properly performed, there has to be specific and minutely detailed laws; only when one knows exactly how one is to perform a particular mitzvah will he be able to perform it in the desired manner.

It is easy to see that the "general" laws of all mitzvos were transmitted at Sinai, when G-d gave Torah and mitzvos to the Jewish people. In fact, the Torah explicitly states this in a number of places, such as:[3] "These are the commandments that G-d gave Moshe for the Jews at Mount Sinai."

However, one may err in thinking that the detailed laws of only those mitzvos that were to be performed immediately, such as the Ten Commandments and laws establishing social justice, were conveyed at that time, while the details of the rest of the commandments - laws such as Shemittah, which only became germane 20 years after the Jews entered Israel - were communicated at a later date. Rashi therefore explains that the particulars of all the mitzvos were imparted at Sinai.

But why did G-d relate everything at Sinai, even the details of those mitzvos that would not be applicable until much later? Why not convey these particulars closer to the time when they would become relevant?

When G-d issues a command, it is of course necessary that the individual so commanded be told precisely how to go about performing the mitzvah; the general laws simply do not suffice.

Thus, it can be seen that the general principles of a mitzvah rely not so much on the person performing it as on the fact that it is G-d's command. The particulars, on the other hand, emphasize the person's performance.

As such, the general commandments place greater emphasis on the Commander, while the particulars involve aspects of the person performing the commandment, and the world and worldly matters in which and with which the mitzvah is performed.

When G-d gave the Torah and mitzvos at Sinai, He did so to the accompaniment of "thunder and lightning,"[4] with the mountain "smoking because G-d descended upon it with fire"[5] - a degree of revelation unparalleled in the annals of history.

If at that time, G-d would have revealed only the general principles but not the details of all the commandments, the nation could have mistakenly assumed that the general principles, indicative as they are of the Commander of the mitzvos, were of greatest import, while the details were of secondary importance.

By providing all the particulars at the time of this great revelation, G-d indicated that these details relate directly to the Commander of the mitzvos Himself, and are an integral part of His divine will.

Moreover, revealing all the minute details of the mitzvos involving physical objects during the experience of Sinai also indicated that G-d desired not merely that His will be performed, but also that by their performance, the physical world itself would become permeated with the spirit of Sinai.

Based on Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, pp. 455-459

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 25:1.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.

  3. (Back to text) Ibid., 27:34.

  4. (Back to text) Shmos 19:16.

  5. (Back to text) Ibid., verse 18.


Shemittah and Shabbos

In the Torah portion of Behar, the verse describes the Sabbatical Year, Shemittah, as follows:[1] "The seventh year is a sabbath of sabbaths for the land; it is a sabbath unto G-d, during which you may not plant your fields nor prune your vineyards."

Rashi[2] comments on the words "it is a Sabbath unto G-d," and explains: "For the sake of G-d; similar to that which is stated regarding the Shabbos of Creation."

What does Rashi mean by this comment?

The Torah provides two reasons for the Jews' obligation to rest on Shabbos:[3]

  1. to commemorate the work of Creation - since G-d made heaven and earth during the Six Days of Creation and rested on the seventh, therefore we are to work for six days of the week and rest on Shabbos;[4]

  2. to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, as the verse states:[5] "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt... therefore the G-d your L-rd has commanded you to observe the day of Shabbos."

By explaining that the rest of the Shemittah year is likened to the Shabbos of Creation, Rashi is telling us that the intent of resting during Shemittah is to commemorate the fact that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

However, this gives rise to the following question: Since, according to Rashi, the intent of Shemittah and Shabbos are seemingly one and the same - to commemorate G-d's creation of the world in six days and His resting on the seventh - why the duplication? Why are we commanded to rest on the seventh day of the weekly cycle, as well as on the seventh year of the seven-year cycle?

The sanctity of Shabbos envelops and permeates the Jew, including his physical body and material needs. Thus, we have the mitzvah of "calling the Shabbos a 'delight,' "[6] and taking pleasure in all manner of things, including eating, drinking, etc.

Although during the rest of the week, we are to partake of permissible worldly matters only in accordance with our needs, and overindulgence for the sake of pleasure is not permitted,[7] on Shabbos the indulgence in these selfsame pleasures is considered a mitzvah. This is because the sanctity of Shabbos permeates even man's physical properties, so that he must also delight in them. This delight takes the form of a mitzvah, and is sanctified and holy.

Thus, when Rashi compares the sabbath of Shemittah to the Shabbos of Creation, he is conveying not only the prohibitory aspects - the need to cease from working the land during Shemittah just as on Shabbos we cease all creative labor - but also the positive ones: just as all physical matters are sanctified on Shabbos, so too are we to draw down the sanctity of Shemittah within the fruits of the Shemittah year,[8] for "In all your ways shall you know Him."[9]

Accordingly, we now understand that, just as there exists a special quality within Shabbos that Shemittah lacks, so too does Shemittah possess a quality lacking in Shabbos:

The Shabbos day possesses the special quality (lacking in Shemittah) that, on this day, man and the rest of creation are elevated to a higher level.[10] Thus, all manner of creative labor is prohibited, and all of a person's needs are considered matters of delight, and are categorized as a mitzvah.

Shemittah, on the other hand, is "a Sabbath for the land," the "land engages in a Sabbath to G-d,"[11] wherein the "sabbath unto G-d" is drawn down within man's physical and earthly affairs.[12]

There is a lesson contained within the mitzvah of Shemittah: Man's union with G-d is not limited to the time spent in the study of Torah or in prayer, when he divorces himself from worldly affairs. Rather, he can and should seek holiness and union with G-d even while engaging in worldly matters, for "in all your ways shall you know Him."

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pp. 108-114

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 25:4.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.

  3. (Back to text) Yerushalmi, Shevi'is 5:1.

  4. (Back to text) See Shmos 20:9-11.

  5. (Back to text) Devarim 5:15.

  6. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 58:13; Tur and Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, Orach Chayim, ch. 242.

  7. (Back to text) Tanya ch. 7, et al.

  8. (Back to text) See Rambam Hilchos Shemittah VeYovel ch. 4: "They are to be eaten within the framework of the sanctity of shevi'is." See ibid. 6:6: "The fruits themselves ... are deemed sanctified."

  9. (Back to text) Mishlei 3:6; Rambam, Hilchos De'os conclusion of ch. 3; Tur and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim ch. 231; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, 156:2.

  10. (Back to text) See Sanhedrin 65b; Bereishis Rabbah 11:5; Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas Kedushas Shnas HaShevi'is.

  11. (Back to text) Vayikra 25:2.

  12. (Back to text) See Toldos Yakov Yosef, beginning of portion Behar; addendum to Keser Shem Tov (Kehot, 5733) p. 20.


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